A contextual ad offering for mobile publishers and advertisers puts Google into competition with Third Screen Media and others in the nascent mobile ad network space.
Following the roll-out of a revamped mobile search earlier this year, Google has begun testing a version of AdSense for mobile Web sites. In typical Google fashion, it ushered in the beta program not with an announcement, but by sending invites to AdSense users late last week.
Internet entrepreneur Scott Jones posted on his blog, Self Made Minds, that he received an invite to the Google beta. The news garnered attention throughout the blogosphere and SEO community.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the beta. "Google is committed to finding new and better ways to get users the information they need while on the go, and to opening up new revenue opportunities for our partners. We are currently conducting a limited beta to test AdSense for mobile, a monetization product for mobile publishers. We will continue to evaluate the beta and will refine the product based on feedback from our users, publishers, and advertisers."
"At present it just appears in my AdSense in the list of products and has not been tested," Jones told ClickZ News. He went on to say ad units include single and double ads, WAP 1.0 or 2.0 in the normal color palette for integration.
While positive about the move, industry analysts question the size of the market for contextually delivered mobile ads. "How big is mobile advertising at this time, and how much is Google coming into the space going to impact positively or negatively?" asked M:Metrics's vice president consulting and senior analyst Evan Neufeld.
Google's mobile AdSense limited beta may bring mobile one step closer to becoming a line item in advertisers' budgets, rather than an experimental entry.
"Google's AdSense is a very powerful product online, but it fits a particular niche for advertising. I don't think that niche is currently filled in mobile, but I don't know how big that niche is," said Lee Hancock, founder and CEO of go2 Wireless, pointing to Google's offering of standardized ads, contextually-based units, PPC and impression-based models.
"If you look at the way AdSense works online, typically associated with content that is relevant, it's typically displayed in extra areas on the page," Hancock said. "You're not going to have that flexibility and capability on the mobile phone, with its small screen."
Skepticism aside, Hancock said "Google will likely be successful; the question is the magnitude of that success."
The appearance of ads through AdSense has at least one potential benefit to the user experience. "It will probably assist in the discovery of information on a mobile phone," said Hancock. "But what will be really interesting to see is how monetizible mobile traffic is."
AdSense's inventory is one component of the mobile marketing platform, cautions Neufeld. "Is it strictly a banner ad-serving tool?" he said. If it ignores SMS and MMS messaging, he added, Google is "missing a big piece of it."
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